Open letter to Uzbek President Karimov

Dear President Karimov:

I welcome your 22 August 2001Decree on Amnesty and your 30 August announcement that more than 1,000 people convicted of crimes against Uzbekistan’s constitution will be freed according to this amnesty. I also urge you to make next positive steps in a right direction:

Let me welcome your another 30 August acknowledgement that police in Uzbekistan sometimes used “illegal methods” while interrogating suspects, violating rather than protecting people’s rights, while the courts handed out harsh punishments for minor crimes.

I understand that unfortunately, as you said “[T]hese illegal methods that you are talking about are present everywhere, in all countries, even the most democratic nations,” and that “[T]his happens not only here but also in other countries and we can’t simply put an end to this by issuing another presidential order, we need to raise the moral level of society. Good should win out over evil.”

At the same time, I urge you to make urgently needed steps to investigate hundreds of alleged cases of torture, and death in the detention of human rights defender and former parliamentarian Shovriq Ruzimurodov among them.

Because there are many confusions regarding the term “political prisoner”, let me briefly touch my understanding of this subject. Possible political-religious prisoners are those whom prosecution was likely politically motivated, and who are innocent or whose punishment is disproportional to alleged offences. The government considers most of these prisoners to be alleged, potential, or real advocates of the Islamic rule in the country. However, I believe that in most cases, related Uzbek officials are wrong in the judgement.

Among with many colleagues, I am ready for constructive cooperation with the Uzbek government in reviewing cases of these prisoners.

Let me very briefly describe several specific cases of possible political prisoners. I have to remind here once again that defending rights of people does not necessarily mean that the defender shares views of defendants or all their activities. For all of them, authorities presented no adequate prove of their guilt. In many cases, authorities harshly violated due process and allegedly severely tortured many of them to obtain confessions. Therefore, according to Uzbek law, they should be considered to be innocent.

Similarly, it is believed that many other Islamic activists persecuted in Uzbekistan are non-violent advocates and innocent.

Central Asian Human Rights Information Network of the Union of Councils, and the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, among with other interested human rights groups, are ready to present to the Uzbek government more information on possible political-religious prisoners in the country. We are ready to cooperate with the authorities in reviewing their cases.

Mr. Abdumannob Po’lat is Chairman of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan and Director of Central Asian Human Rights Information Network.